390 Flares390 Flares×My friend Richard Nikoley over at Free the Animal has blown the doors off the Paleo community recently with an amazing series of posts on something called resistant starch. If you are not familiar with Richard’s work, he’s a little crazy. As in totally willing to go on an all milk and kefir diet for a whole month. Or willing to experience crazy amounts of intestinal gas to test the effects of lots of potato flour on his blood glucose. He’s discovered some cool stuff, and Mark Sisson and Chris Kresser picked it up. Now it’s all over the Paleo world.
This post explains what resistant starch is, where it fits (or doesn’t) on the Bulletproof® Diet, and where to learn more.
Resistant starch is interesting because it may be a natural way to increase butyrate in the body. I put butter in Bulletproof® Coffee because it’s one of the best ways to take in preformed butyrate, which is vital for gut health (plus, Brain Octane oil doesn’t froth in a blender without butter!).
What if, with resistant starch, you could make the bacteria in your colon manufacture all butyrate you needed? That would be a very cool biohack!
Resistant starch is a starch that does not digest in the stomach, so it arrives intact in the colon. According to several studies, it will ferment when it reaches the colon and the bacteria in your gut will create lots of good stuff, hopefully making you healthier.
But the research about resistant starch is compelling.
- It improves insulin sensitivity.
- It lowers insulin and glucose levels after meals.
- It makes more butyrate than other prebiotics.
I’m a little skeptical of this resistant starch business because, in the course of creating the Bulletproof Diet, I’ve explored countless types of starches, including growing my own Jerusalem artichokes for their inulin content. I finally concluded that every type of so-called “prebiotic” starch, especially those artichokes, would cause massive gas and inflammation in both me and in my hapless dinner guests.
I retest those assertions occasionally. Six months ago, I added Jerusalem artichoke syrup, a source of prebiotic starch, to my Bulletproof Coffee and took a probiotic with it for one week. I gained 10 pounds and my 3-year-old son asked me why the air smelled like poop. So clearly, prebiotics and probiotics are not always beneficial, at least for me, and more than a few of the Bulletproof Dieters on the forums. So I considered resistant starch to be yet another source of food for the often-not-so-pleasant stuff, including fungi, which grows in our guts. There is even one reference I recall clearly, but didn’t find online, about how heated and cooled starch can create small kidney blockages. So I recommended avoiding them.
But upon seeing this new evidence, I start to wonder whether the purported benefits of fiber in the diet actually are occurring because the fiber comes with resistant starch. The only problem is that modern sources of resistant starch are beans and legumes and raw oats, which are not Bulletproof because, like most starches, they contain anti-nutrients that damage your gut, like gluten, lectins, or phytic acid. You can also find resistant starch in raw potatoes, green bananas, and raw plaintains. Gross.
One of the unfair advantages I have as a biohacker is that I am married to Lana, a Karolinska-trained physician with nice arms. I asked her about resistant starch, and she said: ”Yeah. We doctors know about that, but we call it indigestible starch.” But then, she went on to say that East European herbal healers, including her grandmother years ago in Czechoslovakia, used dried raw potatoes to fix (get this) HAY FEVER. As we’ve discovered, gut biome problems lead to allergies. These new Paleo discussions around resistant starch may be a rediscovery of old knowledge. Fix the biome; fix the allergies.
As a guinea pig, I am intrigued. And a little bit wary. On the Bulletproof Diet, I simply do not fart. Everyone who experiments with resistant starch experiences gruesome levels of flatulation for about a month. I do not want to be one of those people. Before the Bulletproof Diet, I once (this is true) had such bad flatulence on a long international flight that one exasperated traveler in business class, five rows back, took to shouting, “Stop Farting!” every time it happened (like every minute for hours) until the stewardesses got him to quiet down. I like the way my gut functions on the Bulletproof Diet. But Richard discovered that you can stay in ketosis while taking resistant starch! (This isn’t hard when you have Brain Octane oil with it.)
I do not believe it’s optimal to be on a zero-carbohydrate diet for long periods of time. I went for a little more than three months of eating a single serving of vegetables each day. The rest was fat, Bulletproof Coffee, and grass-fed meat. The results were disastrous. My sleep quality went away, I had dry eyes and dry sinuses because I lacked the starch necessary to make mucus, and it also gave me a leaky gut which resulted in several new food allergies. Most people do better on some low toxin carbohydrate, as long as they experience ketosis frequently, which is why the Bulletproof Diet is a cyclical ketogenic diet. Could resistant starch let us stay in ketosis longer without the downside of a zero-carb diet?
There is also the important point that the planet’s biome has been altered by mankind in the last 50 years. There are things growing in our guts that generate toxins they did not used to make. How do you know that the right microbes with the right genes will eat the resistant starch in your colon? There is ample evidence that resistant starch feeds the friendly bacteria, but we do not know for sure that the ”friendly bacteria” will with certainty make us healthier anymore. In fact, “tatertot” who worked with Richard on this research, got his American Gut results back after lots of resistant starch. His biome was stellar, but it contained a lot of Limnobacter, a rare microbe normally found in glaciers. Who knows what’s going to eat the resistant starch you put in your mouth?
But I have some unresolved allergies, and I’m a guinea pig. So I’m going to do an experiment with resistant starch. The easiest place to find resistant starch is in Bob’s Red Mill potato starch, which you take without cooking. (You could stir it into Bulletproof Coffee after you’ve added butter so it’s not hot enough to destroy the starch – keep it under 160 degrees.) The only problem is that potatoes contain lectins that affect a lot of people, including me, because they are a nightshade vegetable. The solution to this on Richard’s blog is to use potato flour in an enema to bypass the small intestine. That seems kind of inconvenient. And messy.
But I can buy the potato starch locally, so I will start that way as I wait for my plantain flour to arrive. TMI alert: The lowest toxin, most Bulletproof source of resistant starch is from plantains, and Barry’s appears to be the best brand. Mine is on its way. I may make some unripe plantain chips in the meantime, by slicing and dehydrating them. And funny enough, cooked and cooled sushi rice has about 5 grams of resistant starch per cup. I will work my way up to 4 tablespoons (48g) of plantain flour per day, for about 32 grams of resistant starch.
I will report the results back here on the blog. I am doing my ubiome test right before starting so we can see what my pre-starch biome looks like, but I do not have another test kit to see the difference when I am done. My hopes are pretty high that resistant starch is a missing link in modern food, just like fat was!
The people who should be most afraid of this experiment are the handful of Bulletproof team members who are stuck in a room attending 40 Years of Zen training with me next week. <insert evil laugh>